A BIRD that vanished from south Cumbria is the star of a unique antidote to the national lockdown.

The almost extinct corncrake is heading the University of Cumbria’s BOOMcast soundwalk, a 30-minute audio recording from the Rusland Valley, aiming to bring a calming slice of nature into people’s homes.

The ground-nesting bird disappeared from the area after its habitats fell victim to farm machinery and changes in land management, but thanks to the pioneering Back on Our Map (BOOM) initiative its raspy voice can be heard again, along with other birdsong and evocative descriptions of a winter wonderland.

News and Star: ENDANGERED: Corncrake, picture credit Ron Knight, Creative CommonsENDANGERED: Corncrake, picture credit Ron Knight, Creative Commons

BOOM’s far-reaching four-year reintroduction programme for ten threatened species across south Cumbria also looks at cultural heritage and what has been lost.

Another aim of the project to is to roll out pioneering actions encouraging people to reconnect with nature.

Led by University of Cumbria, with Morecambe Bay Partnership (MBP) spearheading community involvement, the project has been made possible through money raised by National Lottery players.

MBP team leader, Michelle Cooper, said: “We have been able to capture something of the magic of Rusland’s woodlands, the peacefulness, birdsong and trees, along with words and recollections of farmers and coppice workers, past and present.

“Nature has brought such respite during the pandemic, when outdoor spaces have been valued more than ever before. We hope the soundscape will inspire people to take time to look and listen to their local wildlife and precious habitats – and to cherish them.”

Mrs Cooper said there was anecdotal evidence that, despite their extinct status, corncrake had occasionally been heard calling over Rusland’s meadows in early spring.

She added: “Sadly, they don’t stay because the habitat isn’t yet suitable for rearing young. They suffered high mortality rates through mechanical mowing and inadequate grass cover to protect them from predators.

“We hope we can encourage more research into this beautiful bird and in the meantime share a special lost species with as wide an audience as possible.

“Our ‘BOOMcast’ gives insights into how farming has changed and the effects on wildlife.

“The aim is to share sounds and provoke conversations across the generations. It’s a wonderful escape into tranquillity and will especially appeal to those shielding, self-isolating, or unable to leave home.”

You can access the recording here